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#295871 - 04/30/20 02:35 AM GPS help!
Phaedrus Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 04/28/10
Posts: 2892
Loc: Big Sky Country
Okay folks, I'd like to pick your brains a bit on GPS. I'm really wanting to buy a new one (I've had GPS before but back in the Magellan days 15-20 years ago). They are a lot smaller and power powerful now! I'm struggling a bit with which one to buy; obviously as one spends more money there are more bells and whistles but those features may not really help me.

What I want for sure:

The unit needs to display current location in UTM coordinates and should support the common ones. Primarily I want a GPS to use with maps.
Decent battery life and support for AA or AAA batteries- I really don't want a rechargeable internal cell if at all possible.
Durable- I'm not going to throw it off of a mountain but it should survive a bumps and stuff.
IPX-4 water resist at a minimum. Not gonna take it swimming but it does rain.
GPS & Glonass constellations supported
"Affordable"...yeah, that's kind of subjective I realize and depends on what options I settle on.

What I would maybe like:

Interfacing with Android via Bluetooth would be nice but not required.
Touchscreen? Maybe nice most of the time but sometimes a minus.
Ability to download topo maps, especially open source. I will take a paper map but having onboard maps would be a plus.
Support for Galileo constellation would be a bonus.
Considering if I want/need something like the satellite link of a Inreach Mini; almost as good as a PLB and two-way.
Simple- I'm not a complete dummy but learning to use it shouldn't be rocket surgery.

Models I'm looking at with some of the obvious pros and cons:

Garmin eTrex 10: Super cheap, decent reviews, takes AA batteries. But no downloadable maps and very spartan, minimal capabilities beyond coordinates and track-back.

Garmin eTrex 30X: A bit more feature laden than the 10, still AA batteries. But not sure how decent the mapping is, limited memory, still not a touchscreen.

Garmin Foretrex 601: Very robust (milspec), waterproof, ruggedized. Has an altimeter and compass. Minimal mapping but a very accurate and sturdy unit, can be worn on wrist.

Garmin Montana/Oregon: Full featured, touchscreen, does about anything you could ask of GPS. But expensive.

Garmin Inreach Mini:
Two way text link to Irridium constellation. Robust link to Android phone. Compact. But starting to get to be some real money; some features require subscription for more $$$.

Am I missing anything obvious? What has worked for you folks? Who relies on GPS alone? Who is using theirs in conjunction with paper topo maps?

Should I spend $85 on an eTrex 10 to play with it? Or just blow my wad on a full featured unit out of the gate?

Thanks for helping me spend my money.
“I'd rather have questions that cannot be answered than answers that can't be questioned.” —Richard Feynman

#295872 - 04/30/20 05:14 AM Re: GPS help! [Re: Phaedrus]
M_a_x Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 08/16/02
Posts: 1134
Loc: Germany
I use a Garmin GPSMAP. It uses AA cells and works fine with rechargeables (I use Eneloops). It does not have a touch screen but it can be used with gloves. Summer and 3 season gloves for motorcycling work fine. Winter gloves are bit too thick.
I also have an ETREX Venture as it is less bulky which is a plus in some situations.
I do not rely on GPS alone. Laminated paper maps and compass are the primary mode.
If it isn´t broken, it doesn´t have enough features yet.

#295875 - 04/30/20 06:49 AM Re: GPS help! [Re: Phaedrus]
Phaedrus Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 04/28/10
Posts: 2892
Loc: Big Sky Country
My plan is to use it in conjunction with paper maps. Even if I get a unit with good onboard topo maps I will want to have a hard copy! My land nav skills are fairly basic; I can shoot an azimuth and triangulate my location with a topo map if there are good landmarks. Hopefully a GPS will be another data point to keep me out of trouble. The Garmin GPSMAP is towards the top end of what I want to pay but at $200 it's not bad. I'm also considering the eTrex 30X as it's about $140 new and $100 factory refurbished.
“I'd rather have questions that cannot be answered than answers that can't be questioned.” —Richard Feynman

#295876 - 04/30/20 11:40 AM Re: GPS help! [Re: Phaedrus]
chaosmagnet Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 12/03/09
Posts: 3544
Loc: USA
Buy once, cry once.

Also, I don’t have one, but I understand that the InReach Mini doesn’t show mapping unless your paired device is part of the equation. In your shoes I’d probably want something that didn’t require my phone for full functionality, unless you are prioritizing communications over navigation.

#295877 - 04/30/20 01:29 PM Re: GPS help! [Re: chaosmagnet]
hikermor Online   content
Geezer in Chief

Registered: 08/26/06
Posts: 7507
Loc: southern Cal
I really don't have much to add about the specific GPS unit that will work for you, but I am becoming a fan of rechargeable power supplies. For my next GPS unit, I will prefer a rechargeable.

Right now, I will go out with a phone and any of various lights, the best of which can be replenished from a power bank which is also a backup flashlight or lantern. For extended trips away from vehicles or other sources of electricity, I can add a solar panel and keep myself juiced up indefinitely.

There is at least one headlamp which can accept AA or lithium-ion 14500 batteries. There is at least one 14500 battery with a recharging port built in, so it can refreshed from a power bank.

So many choices....Much depends on the duration of an excursion. The setup that is fine for a two day trip might not be best for a week or more...
Geezer in Chief

#295878 - 04/30/20 02:46 PM Re: GPS help! [Re: Phaedrus]
KenK Offline
"Be Prepared"

Registered: 06/26/04
Posts: 2154
Loc: NE Wisconsin
I currently have the older Garmin GPSMAP 60csx, which apparently turned into one of the more liked models. Even years later it is very well thought of. Mine is still going very strong. I keep thinking I should get a new unit with a bigger screen, but honestly, the screens now are not that much bigger - aside from the car units.

I honestly don't know the current models well, but here are my thoughts:

I'd stick with Garmin - just me. Their handheld units are water resistant and pretty durable. They all will handle multiple coordinate types the higher end units also conntect to the newer satellite systems.

I'd stick with replaceable batteries. You can use your own rechargeables - which is what I do now.

I'd want one with an electronic compass. This allows the unit to point to north when you stop moving. A bit deal to me.

The altimeter isn't useful in the flat flat flat midwest, but on the two sides of the U.S. it would be useful.

I tend to lean toward a model with buttons so I could use it with gloves on - in winter. BUT, that will make the case larger.

Looking at Garmin's website ... if I bought again right now, I'd get the Garmin GPSMAP 64csx. There is also a newer GPSMAP 66i, but I don't think I'd need the inReach two-way texting feature that requires a subscription, but then again, it might be useful. OK, I'd probably buy the 66i assuming it would last 10+ years.

I tend to buy for the very long term, so the difference between $300 and $400 is negligible.

#295880 - 04/30/20 05:41 PM Re: GPS help! [Re: Phaedrus]
Russ Offline

Registered: 06/02/06
Posts: 5339
I have a Garmin Oregon 600 which has everything I need. I have a few other GPS receivers, but the Oregon gets a satellite lock and establishes a location from a cold start faster than my other units. It uses the Eneloop batteries I prefer and also has an easier user interface imo.

If you don’t need maps, the Garmin Foretrex 601 is great.

I agree with comments above regarding the Garmin GPSMAP 60CSx, that was my go-to GPS until I got the Oregon.

#295881 - 04/30/20 06:41 PM Re: GPS help! [Re: Phaedrus]
Phaedrus Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 04/28/10
Posts: 2892
Loc: Big Sky Country
Thanks, everyone! Lots to ponder. grin
“I'd rather have questions that cannot be answered than answers that can't be questioned.” —Richard Feynman

#295882 - 04/30/20 08:14 PM Re: GPS help! [Re: Phaedrus]
gulliamo Offline

Registered: 09/11/02
Posts: 181
Loc: Denver, CO, USA
Why not get a decent smart phone + app?

I use a Samsung Galaxy S10 and Backcountry Navigator Pro. It works 10x better than any dedicated device I've ever used.

(I also have a SPOT I activate very occasionally when I go waaayyy off grid for a really long time.)

Edited by gulliamo (04/30/20 08:15 PM)

#295883 - 04/30/20 08:25 PM Re: GPS help! [Re: gulliamo]
hikermor Online   content
Geezer in Chief

Registered: 08/26/06
Posts: 7507
Loc: southern Cal
Staunch traditionalist speaking up. GPS devices definitely have their place, and they are very helpful, f not essential, but the good old USGS 1:24,000 quad maps should be available for any serious enterprise - the paper versions, that is. Best if they are waterproofed and full size. That way you can slice off the blank margins for use as fire starter. Try that with your InReach!

You don't want to know how I learned this......
Geezer in Chief

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